A simulation suit that mimics the effects on wearer's reactions of taking illegal substances has been developed by scientists to show young drivers the dangers of getting behind the wheel while intoxicated by drugs.Scientists from the Meyer-Hentschel Institute in Germany, in conjunction with Ford Motor Company, created the suit to simulate some of the effects of drugs, such as cannabis, cocaine, heroin, and MDMA (Ecstasy); in particular slower reaction time, distorted vision, hand tremors and poor co-ordination.A kinetic device in the suit's gloves produces a tremor akin to that caused by some illicit drugs. Random flashing lights in the goggles' peripheral area, allied to hallucinogenic-type sounds in the headphones, combine to disorientate drivers. In tests even professional drivers were badly affected, failing to perform simple tasks such as driving in between cones."The suit's made of a number of different elements," Ford vehicle safety manager Paul Fay told Reuters. "So there are pads that go on the elbows and knees, which stiffen the joint and slow down reaction times. In addition to that there are large heavy weights placed on the ankles and wrists. These have a big effect on co-ordination and balance. On one hand there's a device that produces a tremor and affects motor skills, and the key thing is the addition of the goggles which produce tunnel vision, with visual distortions, and random flashing lights, and finally headphones which provide audible disturbances with random noises which are very distracting when you are trying to drive.""We start with very heavy ankle weight, then you've got knee padding, knee restraints, restricting movement," added Ford spokesperson Charlotte Ward. "We've then got two wrist weights, elbow restrictions, the tremor glove, neck brace to again restrict movement, the goggles which distort the vision and with the flashing lights can help create this kind of tunnel vision effects and then we've got the headphones playing this sort of horrible noise."
The experience will be incorporated into Ford Driving Skills for Life DSFL), the automakers' young driver program that provides training to people around the world through hands-on and online tuition. Young drivers will be given the opportunity to wear the suit while driving on a closed course.
"The suit is designed not to produce the sensation of being on drugs, but to reproduce the side effects which may have a dangerous effect on your driving," said Fay.The suit is a variation on the Drink Driving Suit that the automakers incorporated into their training last year.Fay said the company wants to provide hands-on education to young people about the effects of driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol, even when they might believe they feel fine.
"A lot of the skills that they need for driving - co-ordination, good eyesight, good visual acuity, being able to be free from the distractions of things that are happening on the road to be able to operate and control the vehicle. All of those deteriorate, response times are slower, co-ordination is poorer," he said.A 2013 survey by the US's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that around 18 percent of the country's motor vehicle driver deaths involved non-alcoholic drugs other than alcohol. Their study showed that 22 percent of drivers tested positive for drugs that impair driving. Fay says it is too early to draw major conclusions from the success of the suit in changing young people's perceptions, as the project has only just been launched, but said those who have tried it out for themselves were "all surprised. Obviously it's been launched as part of Driving Skills for Life program, so we haven't a huge amount of experience with it but I think everyone who puts it on says I didn't expect the effects to be so marked and I guess when you take the suit out of context of people actually being high on drugs and saying this is the effects it would have, if they were taking drugs they may not notice that their performance was being affected in this way, so it's a real eye opener for them that this could seriously affect what they're doing and how they're driving." Ford works alongside leading safety organizations in 11 European countries, including France, Germany, Spain, and Russia. In addition to its range of driving suits, Ford has also developed training that highlights the dangers of social media activity at the wheel.